Top Tech firms Apple, Google write letter to Obama to ask him not to hand over user data


Many of the world’s largest tech firms have urged Presidnet Obama not to weaken their products’ security so that governments can read their messages.

Over 140 tech companies, including Google and Apple, have signed a letter to Obama that urges him not to weaken the encryption that keeps internet communications hidden from snoopers including the government.

“Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,” said the letter, which was also signed by technologists and civil rights groups. The letter was first seen and reported by the Washington Post.

Technologists are increasingly concerned about governments’ plans to weaken encryption to make messages available for security services to read. David Cameron has outlined similar plans, saying that the country should not “allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read”.

At the same time, many technology companies have strengthened their encryption, making it impossible for them to read messages even in response to requests from lawmakers. Apple, Google and WhatsApp, for instance, both have installed encryption so strong that they are unable to break it.

To allow officials to access communications, companies have to install a “back door” — a special point of entry that governments can get through — and it is that setup that the companies that signed the letter are understood to be objecting to. Weakening security so that friendly governments have access to it also means opening up the possibility that hackers and other official groups might be able to access it, technologists say.

The letter seen by the Washington Post is signed by three members of a five-strong group of technologists that Obama appointed to review his technoloy policies. It urges Obama to “fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards”, the Washington Post reported.

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